Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Shopping ideas from the IFI Film Shop

Christmas is in sight and you’ve no shopping done? Time is short but the pressure is on to find that special gift and despite the global realm of internet shopping you fear you’ll end up grabbing random gifts in your local shopping centre on Christmas Eve? You may not have considered it but the IFI Film Shop could be the antidote to your Christmas gift anxiety. In addition to carrying a broad range of DVDs and books relating to film which make perfect stocking fillers, it also has some quirky gems and beautiful, limited edition gifts that could be just the ticket for that Cinephile in your life. 

Here are three I hope I will find under my tree this year.

One of my favourite items in the IFI Filmshop is a beautifully framed print of James Mason as rebel leader Johnny McQueen, which is a production still from the classic Irish film Odd Man Out (€100, with proceeds going to the IFI Irish Film Archive preservation fund). This image, which is one of the thousands preserved by the IFI Irish Film Archive as part of its stills and document collection (and reproduced with kind permission of ITV) is from the noir thriller directed by Carol Reed, who later made the Third Man with Orson Welles.

Roman Polanski proclaimed Odd Man Out the greatest film ever made, praising its intriguing mix of styles, Reed married the classic film noir aesthetic with surrealist sequences giving the film a dreamlike, claustrophobic quality; that signature film noir visual style; dramatic lighting creating heavy shadows and an unusual unbalanced composition are used to great effect in this image and make it an arresting and worthy addition to any cinema aficionado’s abode. The IFI Irish Film Archive’s Document Collection includes film stills, posters and production materials, relating to Irish films and many of the images from this collection can be ordered as framed pictures (where copyright allows) making  striking and unusual gifts for a discerning film fan.

Another beautiful gift for those interested in film history is the collector’s edition of the Shepperton Studios book (€40) which was released by Southbank publishing to celebrate the Shepperton’s 75th anniversary this world famous studio. 

This special limited edition of the book comes in a presentation box, is numbered and is one of only 750 copies published. With exclusive contributions from directors, actors and producers and including over 300 stunning images, this book is the first comprehensive, illustrated account of the history and influence of  the legendary British studio where some of the most successful films ever produced were made , including such classics as The Third Man, The Omen, Alien, Gladiator and 2001 A Space Odyssey. This special collectors’ edition includes extras such as a Facsimile of an original Flicker Book (the success of which helped Norman Loudon create Shepperton Studios) A reprinted copy of the film campaign brochure for 70s classic The Wicker Man, and an exclusive DVD featuring trailers from 12 major Shepperton Films , making it all the more covetable and worth repeated investigation.

My final pick is lavish a book from the Taschen Directors’ Archive series The Ingmar Bergman Archives; (€100) for over 30 years Taschen have been producing imaginative and beautifully presented books about art, but even by their impeccable standards this work is remarkable.

Ingmar Bergman who has been considered one of the leading figures in international cinema since The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries were released in 1957, wrote, produced and directed 50 films in a career that spanned 60 years, addressing the fundamental questions of our existence such as mortality, faith, loneliness and fear. For this project Bergman collaborated with the authors up until his death in 2007, gave full access to his archives and granted permission for his writings and interviews to be reprinted. Picture researcher Bengt Wanselius (Bergman's photographer for 20 years) discovered previously unseen images from Bergman's films and from the personal archives of many photographers. The book features an introduction by Bergman's friend, and collaborator Erland Josephson, a full chronology, filmography, and bibliography, a DVD full of rare and previously unseen material and an original  film strip from the 1982 film Fanny and Alexander (1982) that has been played on Bergman's own film projector.

This is the most detailed examination of  Bergman’s life and work ever published and one that The Guardian’s film critic Philip French described as "a sumptuous volume of unsurpassable excellence, the greatest-ever study of a movie director".

Kasandra O'Connell
Head of IFI Irish Film Archive

IFI Film Shop - opening hours: Mon – Tues 11am – 7pm, Wed – Sat 12pm – 9pm, Sun 1pm – 7pm (extended opening hours in December!). Also open Christmas Eve!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The season of giving…

As much as I find it hard to believe that it’s December once again and we’re about to embark on another festive season, I’m going to have to face facts and accept that I’m another year older and have a lot of Christmas shopping to get through! The IFI Film Shop is always a good place to start. There are plenty of gift ideas I could talk about (IFI Membership and IFI Gift Cards are no-brainers!) but I’m going to pick out three things that I’ll be snapping up in the coming days.

First up is a must-have for any cineaste. I simply love the films of Michael Haneke. Showing currently at the IFI is his latest Palme d’Or winning Amour which has to be one of the best films of 2012. It has really given me the appetite to rediscover some of his earlier films. The Films of Michael Haneke box set (€60) is a ten disc collection and includes his entire filmmaking career (with the obvious exception of Amour). There are so many classics in there. I can still recall the chilling masterpiece and the sheer discomfort watching The White Ribbon, or the unsettling atmosphere in the thriller Hidden (Caché) starring our recent Festival guest Juliette Binoche, and only recently I saw for the very first time the uncompromising Funny Games which screened during our IFI20 Landmark Films Season. So this box set is a must have for any Haneke fan and it even includes the fascinating documentary 24 Realities per Second.

Next up is a DVD from one of my favourite Irish filmmakers, Pat Collins. Many of you may have seen his recent film Silence which is an utterly spellbinding piece of filmmaking. His 2011 film, Tim Robinson: Connemara (€14.99), is a sixty minute film based on three Connemara books and is an exploration of landscape, history and mythology. It’s a beautiful film and perfect for any lovers of the West.

As we’re about to embark on a full and comprehensive retrospective of all of Hitchcock’s 52 films (in the biggest season the IFI has ever undertaken) and in advance of the release of the new biopic Hitchcock, it’s a great time to read Paul Duncan's Alfred Hitchcock. The Complete Films (Taschen) or Looking for Alfred by Johan Grimonprez. Both make a fascinating read and a marvellous way to truly get to know the man behind some of the famous thrillers ever made.

Happy shopping!

Ross Keane


Monday, December 3, 2012

Recollections from 1978 to 1984

On the occasion of the launch of Film Focus: New Directions in Film and Media Literacy for Young People, IFI Education's two-year action research project, Ciarán Benson writes about film education as one of the core activities of the IFI over its last 20 years. 

In addition to its recently commemorated 20th birthday, the IFI also has a 30th anniversary looming in 2013.  The IFI was officially incorporated as the Irish Film Institute in 1983. The years leading up to that have their own little history, one reflective of the changes at work in Irish society from the 1970s. The Arts Council, under the leadership of Colm O’Briain, was a particularly energetic and exciting body at that time.  It was a time when older categories of ‘fine’ art were being jostled by newer ones seeking recognition. Film was one of these upstarts. It was also a time when those seeking societal change were strongly committed to the idea that profound change could be instigated by energetic and thoughtful transformations of the education system. 

During 1978 I worked on a project for the Arts Council to reposition the arts in Irish education. The young David Collins (Now Managing Director & Producer of Samson Films), then Literature and Film Officer with the Council, and I taught a course in film ‘theory’ (having taught ourselves in the preceding weeks!) at an annual meeting of the Irish Film Society in the La Touche Hotel in Greystones in the summer of 1978. Following this, it was Davy’s idea that we should seek to become board members of the then National Film Institute at 65 Harcourt Street and use it as a vehicle to advance film and film education. Founded by Archbishop McQuaid in 1943, and incorporated in 1945 with a view to keeping a close eye on the moral dimensions of film and to promote its educational and training potential it had, I think it is fair to say, largely run out of steam by the late 1970s. But it owned its building and the board controlled that ownership. In a word, it had potential.

IFI Family Film Festival 2011

Following our – uncontested – election to the board in late 1978 (or early 1979?), Davy and I set about co-opting new members and re-imagining the Institute. We quickly co-opted Kevin Rockett (now Professor in Film Studies, TCD), Donal Fitzsimons (currently in the School of Education, UCD) was already there. Liam O’Dwyer (now CEO of the Irish Youth Foundation), Luke Gibbons (currently Professor of Irish Literary and Cultural Studies, NUIM), Niamh O’Sullivan (later Professor of Visual Culture, NCAD), and a young encyclopaedist of film from Tralee, the late Michael Dwyer (distinguished Irish Times film critic), amongst others, joined us in the years following.

We were all in our twenties/early thirties, lovers of film, and optimistic about the ways in which Irish society might be changed for the better. With a shoestring budget we appointed a director (Malachy O’Higgins) who was quickly succeeded by a second Director David Kavanagh who remained until the IFC/IFI was firmly established in Eustace Street. A particularly important appointment was our first education officer Martin McLoone (currently Professor and Director of The Centre for Media Research, University of Ulster) in January 1980.

It is fair to say that two very different tendencies met on that NFI board representing very different views of Ireland, yet my memories are that the tone of our board meetings was affable and often amusing. From the outset we committed ourselves to advancing film education and, with Martin McLoone on board, we immediately instituted summer courses of the La Touche kind.  

In July 1980 the first Summer School was held at Clongowes Wood College. It was themed Film Studies: The Irish Context and had over 90 students. The following year’s theme, also at Clongowes, was Film Noir. Evening courses for teachers and the general public began early on, and soon publications began to appear like Television and Irish Society (edited by Martin McLoone and John MacMahon, based on the papers from the 1984 Summer School) and Every Picture Tells a Story: Introduction to Visual Literacy (1985). The first Television Summer School, in cooperation with RTE, was held in the ‘green room’ at RTE in July 1983. 

I was Chairman from 1982 to 1984. By 1982 the board was committed to changing from the National to the Irish Film Institute. I remember the meeting at which all emblems of the NFI’s denominational history were removed and the course of the future IFI was clearly charted. It was never easy since money was always short and the times were tough. We received comradely encouragement from the British Film Institute and from the BBC’s educational services. 

In 1983 the IFI took over the running of the IFT (The Irish Film Theatre, formerly The International, on Earlsfort Terrace) and changed it from a rep cinema to a 'first run' art cinema. Despite some notable box-office successes (Heat and Dust, for example) it was not a great success. What it did, however, was to confirm that the IFI needed its own screens and by late 1985 The Quakers Meeting House on Eustace Street was identified as being a potentially ideal new home.

Eventually, under subsequent boards chaired by Kevin Rockett, and with farseeing support from The Arts Council, the move to Eustace Street became possible.  Proceeds of the sale of 65 Harcourt Street were, like a dowry, instrumental in attracting the funds for the IFC.  

In these differently challenging times, little histories like this should remind us that we never know how far the ripples of enthusiasm can reach. 

Ciarán Benson
Emeritus Professor of Psychology, UCD

Read more about IFI Film Focus report.